New Literacies and Project-Based Inquiry in the 1:1 Classroom
Facilitator: Hiller A. Spires

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T. S. Eliot

Overview - 10 minutes

Overview of PBI as an effective learning process within the new learning ecology of 1:1 classes.

Learning Outcome

You will learn how to engage your students in Project-base Inquiry (PBI) using new literacies forms of communication.

Assignment for Collaborative PBI - 25 minutes

Step 1:
In today's session, we will address the overall question: How has the US government recently intervened in or influenced international crises?
To answer this overall question, I have provided a subquestion for each table to address:
  • Table 1: How has the US government intervened in Greece's economic crisis?
  • Table 2: How has the US government intervened in China's undervaluing of its currency?
  • Table 3: How has the US government intervened in the Haiti crisis?
  • Table 4: How has the US government intervened in the genocide crisis in Darfur?

Each table will engage in the PBI process: 1) Gather & Analyze Information, 2) Creatively Synthesize Information, 3) Critically Evaluate & Revise, 4) Publish & Share. Represent and communicate your constructed answer in a creative way (e.g., video clip, avatar, comic strip, surprise me). Your project product should be no longer than 90 seconds.

Step 2:
In your group, each member selects a role to play during the PBI activity:
  • Facilitator/Time Keeper - Guide the group to complete the process and collaboratively answer their question within the designated time frame.
  • Provocateur - Help provoke the group to think deeper about what they are learning.
  • Scriptwriter - Take the lead in creating the group's constructed response with a tech. tool.
  • Reporter - Share information visually and verbally with the larger group. Tweet url to #newlit

Step 3:
Go to New Literacies Tool page to select a tool to represent your 'new learning."

Step 4:
You have 25 minutes to complete Steps 1 - 3 and display a project URL on

Showcase & Debriefing - 20 minutes

Share your projects.
  • What did you learn?
  • What were you surprised about?
  • Did you collaborate effectively?
  • What was the quality of your work? What skills do you need to practice?
  • What would a creative synthesis of the multiple responses look like? (A creative synthesis is a representation of new knowledge that is constructed and demonstrates careful attention to how disparate elements fit into a cohesive whole).
  • How might you use the PBI process to teach content in your 1:1 classes?
  • How might you design a PBI experience considering depth, complexity, and duration of learning?

Conclusion - 5 minutes

Going Forward: Tips for PBI implementation:
  • Provide multiple opportunities for students to discuss, analyze, and reflect on learning experiences; they are more likely to transfer new knowledge & skills.
  • Provide differentiated support based on student needs. Remember it's ok for students to grapple and struggle--that's how they develop new ways of thinking.
  • Introduce complex concepts through planned mini-lessons or just-in-time instruction.
  • Don't dumb down the task. Challenge students to push beyond what they think they can do.
  • Assessment - Provide feedback on early drafts and provide revisions.
  • Assessment - Use a variety of methods including, self-evaluation, peer-evaluation, teacher evaluation, and outside expert.

Additional Resources

Cinema Veriteen Student Work

Here is a rubric specifically designed for 8th grade media product that you find useful as you develop you own rubrics.

Example of 8th grade media product from an ELA classroom. Click to play.

PBI Resources

Great resources and videos about PBI can be found at Buck Institute for Education

Spires, H. A., Hervey, L., Morris, G. & Stelpflug (under review).

New Literacies & Online Comprehension Resources

New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute
Leu, D. J., Jr., Coiro, J., Castek, J., Hartman, D. K., Henry, L. A., & Reinking, D. (2008). In C. C. Block, S. Parris, and P. Afflerbach, (Eds.), Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices (pp. 321-346). New York: Guilford Press.
Leu et al. - Teaching Internet Comprehension to Adolescents Checklist -

Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK)

Great clearing house for TPACK research and resources at
Spires, H.A., Hervey, L., & Watson, T. (in press). In C.A. Young & S. Kajder (Eds.).Research in English language arts and technology. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Press.